It’s a cliche basically accepted by all Western media to report imaginative news about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea without confirmation.
There are dozens of examples: the national soccer team imprisoned in the aftermath of losing in the Asian Games to South Korea, the ban on getting haircuts like Kim Jong-un, the killing of Jang Song Thaek by a pack of hungry dogs (the most creative journalists added that Kim kept the dogs perpetually underfed to make them more aggressive).
And let’s not forget the 2012 scandal over the book Escape from Camp 14, by Blaine Harden, which tells the dramatic story of Shin Dong-hyuk, the only prisoner to have escaped from a re-education camp. Shin was called for testimony from numerous human rights organizations and even the U.N. about the cruelties committed against dissidents. While there’s no doubt about the widespread existence of prison camps in North Korea, some uncertainty was revealed when Shin confessed that some of his statements in the book and in his U.N. testimony “are not real,” but the result of his imagination.
It certainly doesn’t help that to interpret news about North Korea requires a great deal of experience and knowledge about the country, which writers can’t gain from sitting at their desks in front of a computer. Of course, entering the country is still complicated, although journalists and photographers can now visit more easily.